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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, November 28

Paleolithic Venus Unearthed in France

AMIENS, FRANCE—On the second day of fieldwork this summer at the Paleolithic site of Renancourt, archaeologist discovered limestone fragments that seemed to have been worked by humans. "That same night we carefully pieced together the 20-odd fragments and realized it was a female statuette," archaeologist Clement Paris said at a press conference reported by CNews. The 4.7-inch limestone statue the team reassembled is a highly stylized depiction of a voluptuous woman, and resembles other famous Paleolithic "Venus" figurines discovered throughout Europe. “The fact that the sculpture is not totally realistic shows the intent was to produce a symbolic image of a woman linked to fecundity," Paris said. The work probably dates to about 23,000 years ago. To read more about Paleolithic art, see “A New Life for Lion Man.” 

Rare Finds Unearthed in Kent

AYLESHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists digging ahead of a housing construction project in Kent have unearthed an unusually rich array of artifacts, as well as an Anglo-Saxon skeleton. Among the objects discovered were Bronze Age cremation vessels, as well as Roman domestic artifacts. “The Bronze Age urns are rare, exotic, and wonderful and the ditches were full of very nice Roman domestic property so there was obviously a settlement nearby,” SWAT Archaeology’s Paul Wilkinson told The Dover Express. To read about a royal Anglo-Saxon site discovered in the area, see “The Kings of Kent.”

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Wednesday, November 26

Lost Village Discovered in England

IRONBRIDGE GORGE, ENGLAND—In Shropshire, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of six cottages buried by a slow-moving landslide in 1952. "People were just literally able to see their houses being ripped apart, and there was nothing they could do about it," archaeologist Shane Kelleher of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust told the BBC. Inside one of the homes archaeologists found an ornate mosaic floor, and other cottages are decorated with high-quality tiles, which the area was once famous for producing. The team will rebury the structures after recording them. To read about another recent excavation in England, see "The Scientist's Garden."

Neolithic Handax Discovered in Denmark

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—A Neolithic ax still attached to its wooden handle has been discovered on the Danish island of Lolland. Archaeologists working ahead of the construction of a tunnel unearthed the artifact, which seems to have been ritually deposited on the seabed about 5,500 years ago. "Finding a hafted [handle-bearing] ax as well preserved as this one is quite amazing," Museum of Lolland-Falster archaeologist Soren Anker Sorensen told the BBC. Earlier this year, archaeologists on the project discovered footprints dating to the same period. To read about that discovery, see “Tunnel Reveals Stone Age Footprints.”

Tuesday, November 25

19th-Century Homes of Feuding Families Investigated

HARDY, KENTUCKY—A team led by Kim McBride of the University of Kentucky has been excavating the site of the home of Randal McCoy, head of the McCoys of Kentucky. The home of the head of the Hatfield family, “Devil Anse” Hatfield of Saran Ann, West Virginia, is also under investigation. “I’m very pleased to say that something has been recovered at each of the locations,” Tony Tackett of Pike County Tourism told the Williamson Daily News. At the McCoy cabin, McBride has recovered parts of the cabin’s foundation, primitive glass, bullets, stained glass, nails, and fragments of tools. To read about another historical discovery in Kentucky, see "Sequoyah Was Here." 

Army Assists With Study of Anglo-Saxon Sword

ALDERSHOT, ENGLAND—Archaeologists have enlisted the help of the army to X-ray a sword unearthed at the cemetery at Barrow Clump. “The sword was too large for our in-house X-ray facilities,” Laura Joyner of Wessex Archaeology told Culture 24. The X-ray showed that the corroded sixth-century sword, hidden by its wood and leather scabbard, had been made by a process called pattern welding, where several bands of metal are beaten together to create a single, strengthened blade. “In this case, three twisted rods of wrought iron with steel surfaces were used, showing as a distinctive pattern on the X-ray image. The blade itself was also edged in steel. This is probably because steel can be sharpened to a much finer edge than iron. It is possible to tell the difference between metals on an X-ray image as they corrode in different ways,” Joyner explained. Other grave goods recovered from the cemetery were also X-rayed. They included a spearhead that had been produced from a single piece of iron, and a shield boss with decorative studs to attach it to a wooden shield. To read more about Anglo-Saxons, see "The Kings of Kent." 

Archaeologists Are Examining Amphipolis Tomb Paintings

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—The Greek Ministry of Culture announced that painted figures have been found on the door frames of the second chamber of the 2,300-year-old tomb under excavation in Amphipolis. Pictures of the figures have not yet been released. “We are not hiding anything. New findings are revealed slowly as the restoration process continues,” Culture Minister Kostas Tassoulas told Discovery News. The paintings, which are being examined with lasers, may help archaeologists determine who had been buried in the lavish tomb. In the second phase of the excavation, a team from the University of Thessaloniki will use 3-D tomographic imagery to search the burial mound for additional chambers.